Rory McIlroy injury comes at worst time with British Open looming

UPDATE: Wednesday morning, it was announced Rory McIlroy will indeed miss the British Open at St. Andrews. Below is the original reaction to his injury and the likelihood he would miss the event.

When you think about it, injuries are the food poisoning of sports. You never know when it will hit, you would avoid it at all costs if you could. But when it does hit, it makes you spend all night laying on the bathroom floor wondering what in the world you did to deserve this.

On Monday morning, 10 days from the start of the 2015 British Open, the British Open considering the location, the golf world was hit with the worst of news; the best player in the world will most likely miss a chance to win at St. Andrews because of a freak injury that went down when he was out playing soccer with some of his buddies.

"When the British Open is in Scotland, there’s something special about it. And when it’s at St. Andrews, it’s even greater." — Jack Nicklaus

Rory won’t be at St. Andrews, surely nowhere near 100 percent at least. He might battle through rehab as best he can, but the man coming in with the best odds at winning a second straight Claret Jug won’t be there. And that’s why this news is such a hit to the golf world. For argument’s sake, 2015 has been the best year in golf since 2000, with Jordan Spieth wrapping his hands around the title of "next great American golfer" and cementing a potential rivalry with Rory for the next few decades.

His win at Augusta National was special, but Spieth snagging a second straight major at Chambers Bay last month meant that two men on the planet held all four major championships in professional golf.

Jordan and Rory. That’s it.

This major was supposed to be their battle. This was going to be their true coming out party. We never got Phil vs. Tiger in a real, serious major, and Sergio vs. Tiger literally was nearly two decades ago, but this generation we were going to get the two best battling on the biggest stage, dammit, and this was going to be the start.

Next week was supposed to be where Rory came in with so many demons to exorcise. "Is Jordan really the best golfer in the world?" Rory could lay waste to that. "What happened on Friday in 2010 after that Thursday 63 at the Old Course?" That was something that was surely on the mind of McIlroy as he was set for St. Andrews. "Can I join the greats that have won the Open at the Old Course?" It’s an honor that only the best of the best hold, not only being the champion golfer of the year, but doing it at the Home of Golf.

"I do not think I could go on living unless I felt that one day I might win the Open Championship at St. Andrews." — Ben Crenshaw

Rory’s hope was to join that list. Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Peter Thomson, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods … all these greats have won Opens at the Old Course, and it seemed this would be that time for Rory. In 2010, he had a shot early. In 2015, it seemed to be set up perfect for McIlroy, who hadn’t had his best major season so far (two top-nine finishes, but still, not what Rory had hoped), but knew the Old Course, especially if the winds were down, was his to take.

And now comes all the questions that accompany a major injury to a golfer. Shoulder injuries suck, wrists can linger, but you never, ever want to injure your knees, ankles or back in this game. Tiger knows that. Rory will now have to endure what comes with such a setback.

Maybe he will be fine. Hopefully he will be. The future of golf seemed set with not only the two names listed about, but with Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, and even Danny Lee, the 24-year-old from South Korea who picked up his first PGA Tour win on Sunday at the Greenbrier. Golf is trending younger and younger, and Rory is atop that list, holding the most majors of that group and being the one guy that knows if he brings his best, he’s unbeatable.


For Rory, that win at St. Andrews will now have to wait until he’s 31 (or 32 if the R&A decides to wait until 2021 to return to the Old Course to coincide with the 150th playing of the British Open).

"If you’re going to be a player people will remember, you have to win the Open at St. Andrews." — Jack Nicklaus

There was a great anecdote in Jim Hawkins book, Tales from Augusta’s Fairways, about Tiger’s win at the Masters in 1997. Woods, just 21 at the time, wanted to play some pick-up basketball with a group on Saturday night, happy with his nine-shot lead and what looked like an inevitable first green jacket.

His coach at the time, Butch Harmon, quickly extinguished that idea, knowing that a freak injury to his prized pupil could not only ruin that historical week at Augusta National, but who knows what after.

For Rory, life is more normal than anything Woods ever encountered. He has pushed and pushed to be as normal as possible off the golf course, and this injury is just a part of it. But for golf fans, it’s the triple-bogey of golf news, and we will enter St. Andrews without the new face of the global golf world.

Sure, Jordan will be there, and that storyline is as good as any we’ve had in years, but without Rory, this major will feel a bit less exciting.

Here’s hoping he gets well soon. Love him or hate him, the golf world needs him.